La Douceur du Foyer

Flowers from SethI just got home from Paris last night, greeted at the airport by Seth’s smiling face. He’d offered to pick me up and left work early to do so, showing up looking handsome in a blue-and-white plaid button-down tucked into khaki slacks. He wrapped me in a hug and then, from behind his back, pulled a beautiful bouquet of sunflowers dotted with tiny purple daisies. My favorite.

He insisted on carrying my luggage, kissed me sweetly when we were alone in the elevator, and made dinner for me while I showered at home, washing off more than 15 hours of travel. Other than my daddy, I’ve never had a man meet me at the airport with flowers – and certainly not cook dinner for me as well. Seth makes me feel like a princess.

I’m still processing everything I saw and experienced during my whirlwind of a trip to Paris, but in the meantime, my travel-fogged brain has been musing over a couple of things.

I got sick my first day in Paris, and I am not sure if it’s because:

  1. I was stuck in a petri dish of an airplane for ten hours with coughers and sneezers,
  2. My body subconsciously wanted my French to sound more authentic (i.e. more nasal-y), or
  3. I am allergic to socialism.

With the EuroCup going on, Rachel and I made a lot of new friends – British, Welsh, Polish and German, but no French. I was disappointed to discover that Parisians were just as rude as all the stereotypes. I’m wondering if this is because:

  1. They’re bitter about only being back-to-back World War Champs because of American rescue,
  2. They have stale baguettes stuck up their butts, or
  3. They are living under the stench of European socialism.

In the 18 hours I have been back in America, I have already experienced some reverse culture shock. Most notably:

  1. When someone passed me on the street this morning, I surprised myself by automatically clutching my purse closer to my side, wary of pickpockets.
  2. I walked past two women talking in the office and heard one begin her sentence, “We pardoned…” and was stunned to realize that my mind heard, “Oui, pardon!” I think I need to purge my brain of the last week of French speaking.
  3. I passed by a TV screen declaring Hillary is picking up votes. Not that I’m exactly a Trump supporter, but I’d thought I was escaping socialism when I came home and was disheartened to realize that  – in actuality – perhaps the difference in culture is not quite as significant as I’d hoped. Regardless, I am beyond thankful to be back home in the Land of the Free & Home of the Brave.

Yay ‘Merica.

thatcher-socialism

Authentically Aurora

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Stones from a Gem

Kendra_Scott_Gwendolyn

Have you ever started a new relationship just weeks before Christmas? How do you know what to get for a new S.O.’s birthday? At what point are gifts not only appreciated but expected? Will gifts put too much pressure on a budding relationship if they are given too soon?

These are some of the questions I mulled over in the weeks leading up to my April business trip to Europe. Seth would be celebrating his 29th birthday while I was abroad, and I wanted to do something to let him know I was thinking of him, but I also didn’t want to overwhelm him or make him uncomfortable.

We’d only been dating for a few weeks, and we weren’t even necessarily dating exclusively. We’d been on one date, and he’d only held my hand once. But at my core, I am a giver, and it brings me joy to make other people feel special. Besides, in my family growing up, birthdays were a time of celebration, so I didn’t feel like I could let Seth’s birthday go by unacknowledged.

I wanted to be myself with Seth, and that meant doing something to honor his birthday, so – knowing that one of his favorite hobbies is carpentry – I bought him some crushed turquoise. Seth works largely with mesquite wood, and he had mentioned wanting to start using crushed turquoise to fill in the cracks in his woodworking pieces. I’d hoped it was a small enough gift (under $20) not to freak him out but thoughtful enough to make him feel appreciated.

I planned to give it to him on the day I left for my trip, so the morning of my flight, Seth and I met at church as agreed. After the service, we caravanned back to my apartment, and upon retrieval of my suitcase from my bedroom, I handed Seth the birthday card I’d made along with a drawstring bag filled with the turquoise I’d purchased for him.

“Happy Birthday,” I told him shyly when he looked up at me with a puzzled expression.

Kendra_Scott_Bag“I know you’re not big into celebrating birthdays,” I busied myself with tying my shoelaces, “But I couldn’t just not do anything for your birthday,” I rambled. “Oh, and I didn’t have any gift bags, so I just put your present in a Kendra Scott bag. But don’t worry,” I laughed, wondering what he must be thinking at the sight of the trendy jeweler’s bag, “I didn’t get you Kendra Scott earrings!”

Seth chucked, but I could tell there was something he wasn’t saying. Was it too much that I’d gotten him a gift? He hadn’t even opened it yet. Did he think it was lame I’d reused one of my Kendra Scott jewelry bags?

As I worried over his nonverbal reaction, Seth untied the drawstring bag and pulled out the crushed turquoise, along with the CA glue I’d partnered with it for his next carpentry project. His expression was unreadable at first; then he gazed at me with a soft look of wonder and appreciation. He looked genuinely touched. And surprised. And surprised at how touched he felt.

I watched various expressions flicker across his face and decided I’d done well. Seth stepped forward and wrapped me in a hug; then looked down at the bag of turquoise again. And then he hugged me a second time, whispering into my hair, “Thank you. That was really sweet.”

He helped carry my luggage to his truck and loaded it into the backseat. He opened the passenger door for me, as always, before walking around to his driver door and climbing in. Seth started the engine, but before he shifted into drive, he reached behind his driver’s seat and pulled out a Kendra Scott bag, handing it to me.

“What is this?” I asked, thinking at first that he was handing me the very same bag I’d given him for his early birthday present. But, glancing up into his face, I realized in an instant that this was a completely different bag. Mind racing, I realized with shock that before he found out I was going to give him a present today, Seth had already prepared this gift for me.

“It’s kind of a belated birthday present. Coupled with a going away present.” My birthday had been a month earlier, when Seth and I were just getting to know one another. I hadn’t expected him to get me anything then, and I certainly hadn’t expected him to get anything for me now!

“Can I open it?” I asked. I felt like a little girl, overwhelmed with wonder and excitement and a sense of feeling very, very special.

“Yeah, open it.” Seth’s expression was unreadable again. Did he look… nervous?

I pushed back the teal wrapping paper, pulled out the familiar bright yellow box, opened the teal drawstring bag and found a pair of Danielle earrings in purple – my favorite color. He bought me Kendra Scott earrings. 

I never would have expected such an extravagant gift, and I was unprepared for the way his kindness and generosity affected me. I’d known he was thoughtful. I’d known he was a gentleman. But to be the recipient of not only his selfless service of driving me to the airport but also this tangible token of his affection welled up in me an emotion that nearly moved me to tears. I felt cared for.

It had been so long since someone took care of me that I’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to be romanced; to be and protected; to be lovingly served. And I had a sense that Seth experienced a similar emotion when he opened his gift.

Not only did Seth and I unknowingly both get one another semi-precious stones in a Kendra Scott bag that day, we also both began to give one another the gifts of mutual care, respect, service and trust. Very rarely in life do two givers come together, but when they do, I am finding that it is a beautiful thing to behold.

Authentically Aurora